EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 5, 2012

Lawrence officials wrangle over state ruling that allows more giant signs along local highways

(Continued)

Allowing billboards in the city’s riverfront mill districts also could undermine efforts to redevelop the mills for housing and smaller commercial uses and demean the historic value of the mills, according to Dennis DiZoglio, executive director of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission. Several 19th century mills in Lawrence have been converted in recent years, including the Washington, Monarch and Malden Mills and Union Crossing.

“It’s hard to absorb large billboards in neighborhoods where you’re trying to attract more housing and retail operations,” DiZoglio said. “The trend is to keep them outside of neighborhoods. This would be a whole different approach.”

Brenda Rossi, president of the Sacred Heart Neighborhood Association, has another concern.

“How many Metro PCS billboards do we need in the city?” Rossi asked. “How many vodka ads do we need?”

Under the new Massachusetts regulations, Clear Channel and other billboard companies could erect billboards along highways only if localities agree to allow them.

The localities will be allowed to negotiate their own deals with the companies. Sara Lavoie, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, could not say whether the new regulations will permit localities to collect fees from the companies as part of the deals they can negotiate.

The state will get no revenues from the billboard companies, but the companies will be required to provide the state with free public service announcements and roadway advisories on their billboards. Last year, the PSAs the state posted on billboards in the pilot program were worth $820,000, the DOT said.

Four states, including Maine and Vermont, and several municipalities, including Boulder, Colo., and Fairfax County, Va., ban all billboards.

To read the study on billboards' impact on property values:

http://www.scenic.org/storage/PDFs/Beyond_Aesthetics.pdf

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